The power of books – camouflage in the waterways



I’ve always suspected the protective power of books, the sense of sanctuary in a library or bookshop, and the calm that descends when reading. In his novel, Steven Hall describes the  intriguing premise that all human minds are linked by vast ‘streams’ of language and thought, and, swimming through these streams, are thought-fish. Not all fish are good, and from the most predatory of all, the Ludovician, we need protection or camouflage:

Books of Fact/Books of Fiction:  Books of fact provide solid channels of information in many directions.  Library books are best because they also link the book itself to every previous reader and any applications of the text.  Fiction books also generate illusionary flows of people and events and things that have never been or maybe have only half-been from a certain point of view.  The result is a labyrinth of glass and mirrors which can trap an unwary fish for a great deal of time.  I have an old note written by me before I got so vague which says that some of the great and most complicated stories like the Thousand and One Nights are very old protection puzzles, or even idea nets by which ancient peoples would fish for and catch the smaller conceptual fish.  I don’t know if this is true or not.  Build the books into a small wall around yourself.  My notes say three or five books high is best.’

The Raw Shark Texts

There have been times there is no denying, when the only thing to do, would be to come home to my favourite books, stack them up around me, and find peace enough to relax knowing that I was safe in my book tower. Now I know, they only have to be three or five books high…



thoughts from scarlettlibrarian”

Ten things to bring you back in to the library world ~ a list

I have struggled in earnest to return to Librarianship since leaving it behind in 2011. I have had other distractions and happy days, but never more have I felt the need to re-engage with a career that I am positive and passionate about as now.


So here is my to do list which may help if you are in the same position…

1. Join or re-join CILIP… Read Update as well as blogs and any other library news items to keep up to date with developments

2. Get your CILIP accreditation and/or any other library qualifications

3. Write your personal statement using all library based examples of experience

4. Visit libraries and library projects…get back stage passes wherever possible

5. Brush up on your basic library history…Ranganathan* calls!

6. Seek out opportunities to engage in library based professional activities

7. Engage in volunteer projects for conservation, archiving etc

8. Attend CILIP training days…make sure you’re a member of the CDG

9. Find a teaching course and/or experience

10. Drink tea, put your hair in a bun, don your pencil skirt and heels, and don’t forget your red lipstick. Reading is sexy



“thoughts from scarlettlibrarian”

*The Five laws of library science is a theory proposed by S. R. Ranganathan in 1931, detailing the principles of operating a library system. Many librarians worldwide accept them as the foundations of their philosophy.

These laws are:

Books are for use.
Every reader his [or her] book.
Every book its reader.
Save the time of the reader.
The library is a growing organism.

Book Hive

Rusty Squid created a magical display of animated books that brought text and binding to life. I hope you managed to go and play with books!

thoughts from scarlettlibrarian”


Books and the weather…time to reflect!



When it’s cold I tend to start to think about issues such as the Food bank debate, the gas bill, Elderly loneliness and winter mortality rates, and what it would be like to work at some remote Research Station in the icey north i.e Arctic. I also suddenly remember that I was going to invest in one of those super warm cosy coats for dog walking which I forgot about as soon as the temperature went up by 3 degrees.

I’m not going to talk about any of those things here, but suffice to say they are all close to my heart. Of course I’m going to talk about books and what happens to them in the cold.

I recently watched a Bear Grylls wild weekend whereby feeling ultimately challenged I heard Stephen Fry utter that should something happen to him he would like to leave all his First Edition Collections to his colleagues at Cambridge. This and other more frosty situations made me think about books and what they endure.

‘Temperature and humidity have a significant and lasting effect on books. Excessive levels of both can cause mold or mildew to grow on the books. If you see tiny, almost invisible insects inside one of your books as you are reading it, this indicates the presence of microscopic mildew particles. The little bugs live on mildew and are eating it out of your books.’

‘ Extremely low relative humidity, which can occur in winter in centrally heated buildings, may lead to desiccation and embrittlement of some materials.’

This seems only common sense, however, rather paradoxically, cold temperatures are used for storage of collections of books.  Cold storage with controlled humidity is sometimes advisable for remote storage or little-used materials. The significant climatic notion to remember here is rather like when treasures are lifted from the bottom of the ocean they are kept in seawater for preservation, when materials are taken out of cold storage, the radical, rapid temperature changes they experience may cause condensation on them and gradual acclimatization may be required in much the same way.

An outstanding need for the British Library was cold storage for, amongst other things, its cellulose acetate microfilm. British Library has in recent years had to deal with the problem of storage.

In summary, there is the problem of mildew, desiccation, embrittlement and condensation…and when you consider rare books and documents collections, this is a significant issue in the storage sphere and why books matter.

So many books so little space? You may want to reconsider the attic!


“thoughts from scarlettlibrarian…”

What is it about that bookshop…?

There’s a certain trilogy of movies that for me are entwined together by a book and a bookshop…Shakespeare and Company in Paris. What is it about that bookshop?


A rather unusual, welcoming, bohemian refuge in Paris, Shakespeare and Company Book shop is the site for many literature lovers.

‘For Whitman, an eccentric ex-serviceman who travelled around the world before deciding to settle in Paris, didn’t simply own a bookstore. What he created was, in own words, a “socialist utopia masquerading as a bookshop”: a bohemian refuge where down and out, mostly expatriate writers could mingle, write, and even bed down for the night – all in exchange for a few hours’ work in the shop, and on the strict understanding that they read a book every single day.’ *



This bookshop is also the surprising reunion place in Julie Delphys’ and Ethan Hawkes’ trilogy of films, and inspire any romantic to visit it.



I couldn’t imagine anything better than cosying up in one of those battered old chairs, and settling down to a good read…

“thoughts from scarlettlibrarian”

*From The Telegraph 

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